Air Transport World

Oil baby.

Only six years old, Russia's Kolavia Airlines has ridden Siberia's oil boom to top ten status

The first eight years of the 1990s have seen air traffic levels in Russia fall to just 25% of those achieved in 1990. So when the Federal Aviation Service announced that the country's seventh largest air carrier only began operations in 1993 and is based in a small Siberian city of just 60,000 residents, it seemed that there was a story to be told.

And there was: Kolavia, short for Kogalym Avia, is a private company, something that is still an exception in the Russian airline industry. It was also one of the first Russian airlines to actually buy its aircraft--it bought four new 166-seat Tupolev Tu-154Ms and three Mil Mi-8 helicopters in 1993, and has added to the fleet since.

From a few thousand passengers carried in 1993, Kolavia has grown to carry 560,000 passengers in 1998. So what is Kolavia's secret? The answer will not be a major surprise to people who know the industry--it is oil. Kogalym is a city born in the late 1970s. Situated in western Siberia, it is about 80 mi. from Surgut--where the airline recently relocated its headquarters--and 700 mi. from Tyumen. Western Siberia has become a major oil-prospecting region in the last 30-40 years, and Tyumen has become one of the centers. …

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